Saturday, February 21, 2015

Palestinian activists establish Jerusalem Gate Protest Camp

Dear friends,
Due to other commitments, I have not had time to post about the Jerusalem Gate protest camp which was set up on 8th February. My apologies for the lateness of this post.  Please find below the original press statement issued by the activists, as well as some photos. As you will no doubt be aware, Israeli occupation forces have sought on numerous occasions over the last two weeks to dismantle the camp. Each time the activists have returned.  I will follow this post up as soon as I can with more updates from the camp.

in solidarity, Kim


 February 2015

Popular Resistance activists are rebuilding tents of Jerusalem Gate on the lands of Abu Dis and Al Eizarieh for the Fourth time post being demolished by the Occupation.

 The Popular Resistance activists and the people of Jerusalem on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 were able to construct a number of tents. They called them "Jerusalem Gate". These tents were constructed as a manifestation to protest against the occupation and colonial settler policies which are practiced on Palestinian lands in East of Jerusalem, Abu Dies and Al Eizarieh, which are threatened to be confiscated. The Israeli occupation forces announced that they will demolish these tents hours after their construction.
 In the early morning hours of February 4/ 2015, a day after the establishment of the Jerusalem Gate, the area was raided by the Israeli army’s bulldozers. The occupation army used gas bombs and stun grenades against the activists. The occupation army demolished the tents and the iron structure which the activists used to sleep in. After the brutal assault on the protesters and activists, they returned immediately to the land of Jerusalem Gate and rebuilt the tents including the remaining ones.
They declared that the battle against the occupation will continue until their schemes are foiled. The popular resistance activists and the residents of the threatened land in Al Eizarieh and Abu Dis East of Jerusalem will continue to construct these tents aiming to express their rejection of and the struggle against the policy of the occupation army and its decisions which are leading to the confiscation of the Palestinian lands and the expulsion of Bedouin communities in East Jerusalem. The activists and the community managed to build several tents under the name of Jerusalem Gate in the area of Khalet Al Qamar in Abu Dis.
 This activity or initiative is a first step to protest against the policy of the Israeli colonial occupation. Activists will support the residents of these areas and will continue the struggle with them against the threats of the occupation army to confiscate the land.
The Israeli Occupying continues its daily assault against Palestinians in these areas through the demolition of their homes, as was the case of the demolition of houses of Arab Al Ka’abneh two weeks ago. The residents of Arab Al Ka’abneh were expelled to join a larger collective of people in the Jordan Valley against their will and without any consultations with the community 
The Israeli occupation, using its armyare planning to deport the community of Jabal Al Baba towards Arab Al Jahaleen area East of Jerusalem. The violations committed by the Israeli occupation continues using various tools and methods including forcing harsh living conditions on the residents of certain areas to force them to leave their land. The Israeli army uses various excuses to expel people from their land such as the unlicensed building and that the community is building their property on ‘absentees property

This Israeli plan aims to control the land for the benefit of the colonial settlements in Jerusalem from the eastEspecially large settlements like " Maale Adumim ", aiming to link east Jerusalem area in preparation for the establishment of Greater JerusalemThe Israeli occupation is working on keeping the largest possible number of Palestinians outside the city of Jerusalem to ensure a Jewish majority .

This new racist plan started in the year 2007, it is threatening more than 15,000 Palestinians, half of them are children, all living in 45 communities since Al Nakba in the year 1948, The European Union has condemned the demolitions and forced expulsion from areas occupied by "Israel”.

UNRWA has expressed its concern about the threat of forced displacement, and the forced displacement of people from the territory under occupation as that is a violation of International humanitarian law

Photos by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee via Alternative Information Centre

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Israel killing Palestinians "as a matter of policy"

Dear friends, 
please find below my latest article on Palestine for RedFlag, about Israel's killing of Palestinians with impunity.

in solidarity,

The funeral of 19-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim al-Najjar PHOTO: APA

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of 19-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim al-Najjar from Burin village on 1 February. Al-Najjar was shot dead the previous day. He was the second Palestinian in the West Bank to be killed in January by Israel’s military.

On 14 January, 17-year-old Osama Ali Mohammad Abu Jundiyya was shot in Hebron. He later died after the military prevented a Palestinian ambulance from reaching him.

The death of al-Najjar came just days after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reported that Israel’s military has inflicted the highest number of injuries in a decade on Palestinians in the West Bank.

According to the agency’s December Humanitarian Bulletin, Israel’s occupation forces killed 56 Palestinians and injured 5,868 in 2014. Of those killed, 12 were children. According to the report, the increase in fatalities and injuries was a direct result of a “sharp increase in the Israeli forces’ use of live ammunition in crowd control situations”.

The report also noted that while Israel has increased its use of excessive force, accountability for the deaths and injuries remains low, with Israel investigating only two-thirds of fatalities and subsequently issuing an indictment against only one soldier.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch noted, in a report title Promoting Impunity, that Israel had systematically fostered a climate of impunity within the ranks of the military, refusing to investigate the murder of Palestinians killed by soldiers. The HRW report said that, from 2000 to 2005, Israeli’s occupation forces had killed or seriously injured thousands of Palestinian civilians but that fewer than 5 percent of the fatalities led to investigations.

In February last year, an Amnesty International report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, confirmed that little has changed. According to Amnesty, Israel’s occupation forces “displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity”.

The report also said that soldiers had engaged in arbitrary and abusive force. In a number of cases, there was strong evidence that Israeli soldiers had engaged in war crimes, carrying out “wilful killings”.

Amnesty Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther noted: “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Palestine: Love Under Apartheid


Dear friends, 
February 14 is celebrated around the world as a day of love and friendship. However, for the people of Palestine even the most initimate and private part of their lives are impacted on by Israel's occupation and apartheid regime, including their relationships with their loved ones. 

Over the last couple of years a number of campaigns have sought to highlight the impact of Israel occupation and apartheid regime on these aspects of Palestinian life, as well as the draconian apartheid laws which result in couples and families being forced apart.

On such apartheid law is the racist Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order).  As I noted in my chapter on Palestine and BDS for the Australian book, Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left (edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow), the law: 

prohibits the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) who are married to Israeli citizens. Adalah notes that this specifically affects Palestinian citizens of Israel and prevents thousands of families from living together. Since 2003, the law has been extended annually. Amendments in 2007 and 2008 increased restrictions on Palestinians from Gaza and extended the ban to include citizens and residents of Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

In January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by Adalah and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, ruling six to five to uphold the law, on the basis that, while couples had a constitutional right to live together, this did not mean they had to make their residential home in Israel.

In effect, the court decided that Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel who wanted to live with their spouses from the Occupied Territories or Iran, Lebanon, Syria or Iraq would have to do so outside of the Jewish state.

I have included below videos from the campaigns:  Love Under Apartheid and Love in the Time of Apartheid. 

You can check out their websites to see more videos and to read more about the campaigns and the impact of Israel's occupation and apartheid on Palestinian families and their loved ones.

In solidarity, Kim



Love in the Time of Apartheid action - 2013
with some english commentary via subtitles

Love in the Time of Apartheid action - 2013

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Palestine solidarity activist Kayla Mueller, held hostage by ISIS, reportedly killed in retaliatory airstrikes.

Dear friends,
very sad news. Palestine solidarity activist, Kayla Mueller, who has been held captive in Syria by Daesh/ISIS since August 2013 has died.  It has been reported that Kayla was killed during retaliatory strikes by Jordan last week. The airstrikes were carried out in retaliation for Daesh/ISIS brutal and barbaric murder of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh.

Anwar Tarawneh holds a photo of her husband, Moaz al-Kasabeh, the Jordanian pilot murdered by ISIS

Kayla was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in Occupied Palestine in 2010. She worked with the ISM in Bil'in, Hebron and other villages, as well as in Occupied East Jerusalem.  After her time with the ISM, Kayla also worked with African refugees at the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv.

I have included below the ISM's tribute to Kayla, as well as a report on her death from the New York Times.

As the many tributes to Kayla have revealed, she was a young woman who dedicated herself the struggles for justice and human rights, standing always in solidarity with the oppressed.

In solidarity, Kim


ISM honors Kayla Mueller

9th February 2015 | International Solidarity Movement | Occupied Palestine
Update 10th February 2015:

Today, 10th February, Kayla Mueller’s family confirmed she has been killed.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the popular committee in the village of Bil’in where Kayla joined the protests, told ISM: “Kayla came to Palestine to stand in solidarity with us. She marched with us and faced the military that occupies our land side by side with us. For this, Kayla will always live in our hearts. We send all our support to her family and will continue, like Kayla, to work against injustice wherever it is.”

Photo by ISM volunteer
Photo by ISM volunteer

Kayla Mueller volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement from August to September of 2010.

Kayla, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil'in
Kayla, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil’in.

On 4 August 2013 Kayla, 26, originally from Prescott, Arizona, was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped after leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. Since that time she has been held in captivity by Da’esh (ISIS). This information was not previously released publicly out of concerns for her safety. On February 6th, Da’esh announced that she had been killed by Jordanian airstrikes in Raqqa, northern Syria. The validity of their announcement has not been confirmed.

Our hearts are with Kayla, her family, friends, and all those who have lost liberty, lives and loved ones in the global struggle for freedom and human rights.

With the ISM, Kayla worked with Palestinians nonviolently resisting the confiscation and demolitions of their homes and lands. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem, she stayed with the Al Kurd family to try and prevent the takeover of their home by Israeli settlers.

Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah - Photo by
Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah.

Kayla accompanied Palestinian children to school in the neighborhood of Tel Ruimeda in Al-Khalil (Hebron) where the children face frequent attacks by the Israeli settlers and military. She stayed with villagers in Izbat Al Tabib in a protest tent to try to prevent the demolition of homes in the village. She joined weekly Friday protests in Palestinian villages against the confiscation of their lands due to Israel’s illegal annexation wall and settlements.

Kayla with two other ISM activists in Bil'in
Kayla, standing beside two other ISM activists in Bil’in.

Kayla published writing online about her work in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement in August and September 2010. “How can I ignore the blessing of freedom of speech when I know that people I deeply care for can be shot dead for it?” she wrote.
Below are excerpts from two of Kayla’s posts.

October 29, 2010:
“I could tell a few stories about running desperately from what you pray are rubber-coated steel bullets launched from the gun tip of a reckless and frightened 18-year old.” 

“I could tell a few stories about sleeping in front of half demolished buildings waiting for the one night when the bulldozers come to finish them off; fearing sleep because you don’t know what could wake you. . . . I could tell a few stories about walking children home from school because settlers next door are keen to throw stones, threaten and curse at them. Seeing the honest fear in young boys eyes when heavily armed settlers arise from the outpost; pure fear, frozen from further steps, lip trembling.”

“The smell and taste of tear gas has lodged itself in the pores of my throat and the skin around my nose, mouth and eyes. It still burns when I close them. It still hangs in the air like invisible fire burning the oxygen I breathe. When I cry tears for this land, my eyes still sting. This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics. This land with the people who’s hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build. Yes, the wall will fall. The nature of impermanence is our greatest ally and soon the rules will change, the tide will turn and just as the moon waxes and wanes over this land so too the cycles of life here will continue. One day the cycle will once again return to freedom.”

“Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.” 

On New Year’s Day of 2011, Kayla received news that Jawaher Abu Rahma, from the village of Bil’in where Kayla had demonstrated in solidarity with her and her family, had been killed by tear gas asphyxiation. On the first of January 2011, Kayla wrote:

“I felt compelled to blog on this today. The first day of 2011, the actual day that she died, just a few hours ago in a village called, Bil’in.”

“Every Friday in Bil’in villagers and international/Israel activists march to the barbed wire fence where an enormous and expanding illegal settlement is visible to protest the theft of their land and their livelihoods. The Palestinians are armed with rocks, the other activists with cameras and collectively they are armed with their bones. Each Friday the demonstration is met with violence; rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and sounds bombs are the usual choice of artillery. Lives are taken as a result of the violence and Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life was taken today.

I have been to this village,
I demonstrated in this village,
I demonstrated arm in arm with her brothers,
and I knew her.”
“My first demonstration in Palestine was in Bil’in and that is when I met Ashraf, Jawaher’s brother. Despite his broken English he always made a point to make sure we were ok when we were at the demonstration in his village, to help us cough up the tear gas and walk off the anxiety. He showed us his village and we played with the kids. Ashraf would bring us water or tea and help us find rides out of the village back to the cities. In the summer of 2008, Ashraf was participating in the demonstration and was detained by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). After he was blind-folded and his hands bound, an IDF soldier shot him in the foot from a distance of about 2 meters shattering his toes and leaving him in trauma as one could imagine.”

(As with all of these video clips, the content may be too graphic for some, please use discretion).

“Just the next year in 2009 Ashraf’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahma, was participating in the demonstration and was attempting to communicate with the IDF soldiers telling them to stop shooting the steel-coated rubber bullets as an Israeli activist had been shot in the leg and needed medical attention. Not soon after an Israeli soldier illegally used a tear gas canister as a bullet hitting Bassem in the chest, stopping his heart and killing him instantly.”

And now just today, the daughter of the Rahmah family, Jawaher, has been asphyxiated from tear gas inhalation. Jawaher was not even participating in the weekly demonstration but was in her home approximately 500 meters away from where the tear gas canisters were being fired (by wind the tear gas reaches the village and even the nearby illegal settlement often). There is currently little information as to how she suffocated but the doctor that attended her said a mixture of the tear gas from the IDF soldiers and phosphorus poisoned her lungs causing asphyxiation, the stopping of the heart and death this afternoon after fighting for her life last night in the hospital. The following is a clip from today showing hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and international activist carrying her body to her families home where they said their final goodbyes.

“This family has a tragic story, but it is the story of life in Palestine.”

“Thank you for reading. Ask me questions and ask yourself questions but most importantly, question the answers.
Forever in solidarity,
With Proof From ISIS of Her Death, Family Honors Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller, with her dog, wrote about her captivity in a letter her family made public Tuesday.
For one tortured weekend, the parents of Kayla Mueller refused to believe that their daughter was dead. From their home in Prescott, Ariz., they issued an impassioned plea to the Islamic State, which had held her captive since August 2013, and urged the extremist organization to contact them privately with proof of her death. The militants acquiesced and sent at least three photographs of her corpse.

Those photos are among the few clues about her life and death in captivity, as is a letter that she wrote from her cell last year and that her family made public on Tuesday.

Two people briefed on the family’s communication with the Islamic State said that her parents had received at least three photos. Two showed Ms. Mueller, who was 26, in a black hijab, or Muslim head covering, that partly obscured her face. Another showed her in a white burial shroud, which is used in traditional Muslim funerals. The images showed bruises on the face, but both people, who reviewed the photographs and asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter, said it remained unclear whether her injuries were consistent with being killed in the rubble of a flattened building, as the Islamic State reported.

Play Video|0:50

Tributes to Kayla Mueller

Friends and family of Kayla Mueller, the American hostage of the Islamic State who was killed in Syria, paid tribute to her in her hometown, Prescott, Ariz.
Video by Reuters on Publish Date February 10, 2015. Photo by Brian Skoloff/Associated Press.
The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, said on Twitter last week that Ms. Mueller had died in a building that had been demolished by Jordanian airstrikes, a claim that both the White House and Jordan’s government said was unfounded.

Yet the images sent to her family did not completely rule out death in that manner.

One of the two people briefed on the evidence said that Ms. Mueller’s face did not show puffiness or other concussive effects associated with a bomb blast, making it unlikely that she was killed when the area was hit, as the Islamic State said. But the same person said that she could have been in a nearby building or struck by flying debris.

American officials confirmed that the structure was bombed in coalition airstrikes last week.

Ms. Mueller’s aunts, Terry Crippes and Lori Lyon, remembered her. Credit Jarod Opperman for The New York Times
The authorities insisted that the building, a weapons storage facility, was a legitimate target and explained that they had conducted detailed surveillance to make sure that no hostages were seen going in or out. But a senior American official who requested anonymity to discuss classified information acknowledged that they had not been able to survey the building around the clock.
“We have no definitive evidence of how, or when, she died,” he added.

Described by friends and family members as a deeply idealistic young woman eager to help those less fortunate, Ms. Mueller was just shy of her 25th birthday on Aug. 4, 2013, when she disappeared in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
She had arrived in Syria a day earlier with a Syrian man who has been described as her boyfriend or colleague.

Document: Kayla Mueller’s Letter to Her Family

He had been contracted to fix the Internet connection at a Doctors Without Borders office, and employees of the international charity were flabbergasted when Ms. Mueller showed up with him.
Syria was then a no-go zone for most international aid workers, said employees of the charity, who explained that they had reluctantly housed her overnight and agreed to drive her to a bus station for what was supposed to be her trip back to Turkey.

Her car was ambushed on the way, and she and her Syrian companion were abducted. He was later freed and has declined to speak about what happened.

Once in the hands of the militants, Ms. Mueller was forced to wear the hijab and was placed in a cell with female detainees, according to two former hostages held in the same facility. She was moved a number of times, and witnesses saw her inside a potato chip factory near Aleppo and later at a prison set up on the grounds of a gas installation in Raqqa, the capital of the group’s self-declared caliphate.

While many of the male hostages were tortured, the female captives, including three staffers of Doctors Without Borders, were treated relatively well, according to a European hostage who met Ms. Mueller during his monthslong captivity last year. The women were not beaten, he said, and he said he believed that they were not sexually molested.

This seemed to be confirmed in a letter that Ms. Mueller wrote to her family last spring and that her parents released on Tuesday. On a piece of lined notebook paper, she wrote in crowded, cursive script: “Everyone, if you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cellmates ... have been released.”

“Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/utmost respect + kindness.”

She begged her family for forgiveness: “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through,” she wrote. “I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness.”
Ms. Mueller in a photograph provided by her family.
In Arizona, her extended family and friends gathered by the steps of the Yavapai County courthouse to ponder what had driven her to such a dangerous place. They and others described a deeply committed young woman who refused to avert her eyes from the suffering of others.

“Kayla has touched the heart of the world,” said her aunt Lori Lyon, speaking on behalf of the family.
Her desire to help solve world problems was already on display in high school, where she became involved with a campaign that aimed to stop Flagstaff, Ariz., city officials from using recycled waste water to make snow on a set of peaks considered sacred to the Hopi people. By the time she enrolled at Northern Arizona University in 2007, the Save the Peaks campaign was just one of an array of causes she was engaged with, said her former classmate Leslie Alamer, who helped set up a website honoring her friend’s legacy.

“Every time I ran into her on campus, she was organizing something, or talking about a new issue, or else inviting me to an event. She was so active,” said Ms. Alamer, 28, rattling off the causes Ms. Mueller had joined, including one that called attention to atrocities in Darfur, Sudan.
In college, she began researching accusations of mistreatment of detainees at the military base in Guantánamo Bay, Ms. Alamer said.

After graduating in 2009, Ms. Mueller moved to India, and soon after to Israel. In 2010, she volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement in the Palestinian territories, according to Abdullah Abu Rahma, the group’s coordinator in the village of Bil’in.

He said Ms. Mueller had joined them in using nonviolent means to protest the Israeli occupation. She lived with families in East Jerusalem in order to try to prevent the demolition of their homes. On her blog, she described sleeping in front of half-destroyed homes, using her body as a shield against the bulldozers they feared were coming.

Kathleen Day, head of the United Christian ministry at Northern Arizona University, remembered how Ms. Mueller used her blog as a way to encourage her peers to get involved. She did not just write a blog post and leave it at that: She sent it to friends and family, asking them to forward it to others and to take action.

“It’s not that she’s so angelic,” Ms. Day said. “She saw things and did what she could, whatever she could, however she could.”

The Fates of 23 ISIS Hostages in Syria
Kayla Mueller was one of at least 23 foreign hostages from 12 countries who were kidnapped by Syrian insurgents, sold or handed over to the Islamic State, and held underground in a prison near the Syrian city of Raqqa.